Today’s reading is Leviticus 25:47-27:13, Mark 10:32-52, Psalm 45:1-17, Proverbs 10:22. Today we find a section of scripture which we can define as an If You, Then I Principal. The book of Leviticus is the written form of the law so that the Levites, the priests of God and the rulers/leaders of the day, could lead well the people of God. Twenty-five chapters have laid out the story, the restrictions, the requirements, and the expectations while God ultimately knew the people could not comply with these standards, at least not for very long. So, as God gave these restrictions and requirements, He also included the remedy to come. He knew the people would fail, just as we all fail in keeping the law. Paul worded it perfectly when he said,
14 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[d] I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power[e] within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
I am thankful that the Holy Spirit reveals to us the presence of Jesus, the Remedy, throughout the Old Testament. Though the law of the Old Testament is confusing and overwhelming at times, its purpose now to is show us our sin, to point out our weakness and inability to keep the law. And then to show us the intricate design of the Remedy God intended from the beginning. I find myself continually grateful that we are on this side of the cross and resurrection.
6 But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.
We are released from the law. That does not mean we do not keep the law of God’s Word. We are given power to keep it in a grace-filled, mercy-filled way. It is no longer about what we do or don’t do, but about Who we trust to change us. It is about our good deeds becoming a gift to the One who saved us, not as a means of being saved. We are now free to act like children.
12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
As children of God, we are still required to obey Him, not just rest in our freedom of being His child. We obey Him because we love Him. We obey Him because we trust that He knows what is best. There are things I see that my 5 year old son does not understand. We teach him to obey us because we are his parents, even if he doesn’t understand everything about the command. When he doesn’t obey us, we, too, have to sometimes utilize an If You, Then I Principal. If you obey, then I may give a privilege or reward. If you don’t obey, then I may give you a punishment. But the If You, Then I Principal has nothing to do with how we feel about him, with how we love him. We love him, period. Just because he is our son. But we would not be very good parents if we didn’t care about how he behaved. It is our duty to teach him to obey so that he can receive the blessings of obedience.
Leviticus 26 not only highlights the If You, Then I Principal, it also highlights the truth that there is blessing in obedience. Let’s look at some of the specifics.
3 “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, 4 I will send you the seasonal rains … 6 “I will give you peace in the land, and you will be able to sleep with no cause for fear. I will rid the land of wild animals and keep your enemies out of your land. 7 In fact, you will chase down your enemies and slaughter them with your swords. 8 Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand! All your enemies will fall beneath your sword.
9 “I will look favorably upon you, making you fertile and multiplying your people. And I will fulfill my covenant with you.
Let’s look at verse 9 again. If you obey, I will make you fertile and multiply your people. That language is a nod toward the command of the covenant from the very beginning, “Be fruitful and multiply.” God said that to Adam, to Noah, and to Jacob. It is a sign of His covenant. But our covenant with God is a bit whop-sided. We can’t hold up our end without His help. And He lovingly offers to help us.
These are samples of the blessings that come with the obedience. But there is the other side of the If You, Then I Principal.
14 “However, if you do not listen to me or obey all these commands, 15 and if you break my covenant by rejecting my decrees, treating my regulations with contempt, and refusing to obey my commands, 16 I will punish you…
God is a good Father. He wants to give us the blessings of obedience. But He will punish us if we don’t obey. He may bring on a punishment or simply let the consequences be our punishment. But lest we think He is somehow unjust or unkind to do so, let’s fast forward a bit in the passage. After He lays out all of the punishments, which occur in layers and increase in severity, we see the reason behind it all.
40 “But at last my people will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors for betraying me and being hostile toward me. 41 When I have turned their hostility back on them and brought them to the land of their enemies, then at last their stubborn hearts will be humbled, and they will pay for their sins.42 Then I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham …
44 “But despite all this, I will not utterly reject or despise them while they are in exile in the land of their enemies. I will not cancel my covenant with them by wiping them out, for I am the Lord their God.
The If You, Then I Principal is establish for restoration. The punishment is meant to restore and redeem. As a good father punishes a wayward son, for the betterment of the life of that son, so our Good Father loves us too much to allow us to wander too long in the wilderness of sin. Let’s not forget, though, that it is far above what is expected that God offers us blessing in our obedience. If He was simply a judge we would not get reward and blessing for obedience. We would simply have the expectation of keeping the law and if we did not we would suffer punishment. But our God, in His love, punishes us when we are wrong in order to restore relationship. He also blesses our obedience with good things. And finally, He Himself offers us the Remedy.